Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu

Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu
Member of the Grand National Assembly
Assumed office
7 June 2015
Constituency İstanbul (II) (June 2015)
9th Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
In office
31 December 2004  31 January 2014
Preceded by Abdelouahed Belkeziz
Succeeded by Iyad bin Amin Madani
Personal details
Born (1943-12-26) 26 December 1943
Cairo, Egypt
Political party Nationalist Movement Party (2015- present)[1]
Spouse(s) Füsun İhsanoğlu
Children 3
Alma mater Ain Shams University
Al-Azhar University
Ankara University
Website Official website

Ekmeleddin Mehmet İhsanoğlu (Turkish pronunciation: [ekmeledˈdin ihˈsɑnoːlu]) is a Turkish academic, politician and diplomat who was Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) from 2004 to 2014. He is also an author and editor of academic journals and advocate of intercultural dialogue.

İhsanoğlu studied science at the Ain Shams University, where he received his BSc in 1966. He remained in Cairo and obtained his MSc in 1970 from Al-Azhar University. İhsanoğlu received his PhD from the Faculty of Science at the Ankara University in 1974. İhsanoğlu's academic work has focused on the history of scientific activity and institutions of learning within Islam, cultural exchanges between Islam and the West, the relationship between science and religion, and the development of science in its socio-cultural environment.

İhsanoğlu was the founder of the Department of History of Science at the Faculty of Letters of Istanbul University, and he remained the chairman of that department between 1984 and 2003. He was also a lecturer and a visiting professor at various universities, including Ankara University, the University of Exeter, United Kingdom (1975–1977), Inönü University (1970–1980), the University of Malatya (1978–1980), and Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Germany (2003).

After taking the office as the ninth Secretary General of the OIC in January 2005, İhsanoğlu coordinated the drafting and implementation of a reform program for the OIC aiming to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the 57-member Organisation.[2] The reform program’s components included the "Ten-Year Programme of Action to Face the Challenges of Twenty-first Century" (later implemented by the Third Extraordinary Islamic Summit Conference in 2005) and a revised OIC Charter[3] which was adopted by the OIC at the Eleventh Islamic Summit Conference in 2008.[4][5] İhsanoğlu was one of the signatories of A Common Word, an open letter by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders, that called for peace and understanding. His mandate as the Secretary-General of OIC expired on 31 January 2014.

İhsanoğlu was announced as the joint candidate of the two opposition parties in the Turkish parliament, Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) for the 2014 presidential election. He was also supported by 11 other smaller opposition parties. He lost in the first round with 38.44% of the votes.[6] In the June 2015 general election, İhsanoğlu was elected as a MHP Member of Parliament for İstanbul's 2nd electoral district.[1] He was the MHP's candidate to become the Speaker of Parliament in the June–July 2015 speaker elections, but was eliminated in the third round.[7]

Early life

İhsanoğlu was born Ekmellettin Muhammet İhsan[8] to madrasa professor İhsan Efendi hailing from Yozgat and Seniye Hanım. Seniye Hanım was the daughter of Rhodian Turkish parents.[9][10] İhsanoğlu was born in Cairo, Egypt.

Academic career

Ihsanoglu founded with Prof. Celal Tuzun the Research Institute for Organic Chemistry, when he was a faculty member at the Faculty of Science of the University of Ankara.

Ihsanoğlu is the founder and first chair (1984–2000) of the first Department of History of Science in Turkey, which he established at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Istanbul.

The scholarly positions he filled include visiting professor at Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany, 2003; lecturer and associate professor at Ankara University, Faculty of Science, Turkey 1970-1980; and research fellow at the Department of Chemistry of the University of Exeter, United Kingdom 1975-1977. At the very beginning of his career Ihsanoğlu was lecturer of Turkish Literature and Language at Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt, 1966–1970; research assistant at the Faculty of Engineering and Science, Al-Azhar University, Cairo, 1966–1970; and part-time cataloger of printed and manuscript Ottoman books, Cairo National Library, Department of Oriental Catalogues, Egypt, 1962-1966.

As part of his academic career Ihsanoğlu has held the following positions: member of Academie Europea; member of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences, Paris; member, Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan, Russia; honorary member of Gesellschaft der Freunde Islamischer Kunst und Kultur e. V., München, Germany; honorary member, Hungarian Orientalistik Society, Budapest; correspondent member, Arab Language Academy, Cairo; Royal Academy of Islamic Civilization Research, Jordan; member, International Society for History of Arabic and Islamic Sciences and Philosophy, Paris; Governing Board member, Centre of Manuscripts, Library of Alexandria, Egypt, 2003, Advisory Board Member, Tufts University, Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, Boston; member of the Scientific Committee of ALECSO for the preparation of “Encyclopaedia of Renown Arab & Muslim Scholars”, 2001; member of the Board of Publications and Translations of the Ministry of Culture, Turkey, 1974–1980 and 1999-; Advisory Board Member, Centre of Islamic Studies, School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, England, 1998–; Advisory Board Member, Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), Harvard University, United States, 1992–1996; OMETAR Project Director (history of science, education & technology databank collection), IRCICA, Istanbul, 1995–; Member of Scientific Council and Board of Consultants of Encyclopaedia of Makkah al-Mukarrama and Medina Al-Munawwara, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 1994-; Member of Advisory Board and Experts Board of Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, 1991–; project director and editor of UNESCO’s Work on Various Aspects of Islamic Culture, 1988-, published in 2004; honorary member, Egyptian History Society, Cairo; member, Tunisian Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts “Beit al-Hikma”, Tunis; member, International Society for History of Medicine, Paris, France; Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Islamic-American College, Chicago.

He has an excellent command of English and Arabic in addition to Turkish and a working knowledge of French and Persian.

Diplomatic career

In the 1970s, Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu took part in Turkey’s various diplomatic and cultural missions and committees formed for conducting international consultations or talks at bilateral and multilateral levels.

Prof. Ihsanoglu was the founding Director General of the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture IRCICA.[11] an intergovernmental research centre and subsidiary organ of the OIC. When IRCICA started its activities in 1980, it was the first international organization established in Istanbul. Ihsanoglu as the head of diplomatic mission in this organization and as a cultural diplomat has served more than twenty-four years in promoting intercultural dialogue, relations, tolerance and understanding.

Ihsanoglu participated in various projects, activities and committees of UNESCO, and acted as the project director and editor of UNESCO’s Work on Various Aspects of Islamic Culture, in 1988, published in 2004.

Ihsanoglu was appointed ‘Ambassador at Large’ by the first President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Alija Izetbegović in 1997 for his services to Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is also serving as ‘Honorary Consul’ of the Gambia since 1990.

Ihsanoglu lived the most significant leap in his diplomatic career in 2004 when he succeeded to win the election for the position of the OIC Secretary General out of three candidates. He has become the first by-vote-elected Secretary General of the OIC.

In his former position, since January 2005, as the Secretary General of the 57-member Organisation, the second largest organisation after the UN, Prof. Ihsanoğlu initiated new schemes and strategies of international cooperation with regard to promotion of understanding, tolerance, principles of human rights, democracy, and establishment of dialogue between the OIC’s Member States and with other countries and communities of the world.

The Heads of State and Government of the OIC Member States, convened at their 11th Islamic Summit Conference (Dakar, Senegal, March 2008), unanimously decided to renew Ihsanoğlu’s mandate for another term of office.

Secretary General of the OIC

Within the framework of his mission as Secretary General of OIC, Prof. Ihsanoğlu took several initiatives to reform the OIC’s agenda and strategies in various fields, with the motto: “modernisation and moderation”. As of his first year in the office, he guided the preparation of the “Ten-Year Programme of Action to Face the Challenges of Twenty-first Century” which was adopted by the OIC Member States at their Extraordinary Summit Conference in Mecca, December 2005. Through this programme and the new Charter of the OIC which was adopted by the Eleventh Summit Conference in March 2008, he introduced the application of some concepts and principles for the first time in the OIC. Thus, for example,

Ihsanoğlu attached importance to increasing the role and effectiveness of the OIC in solving problems and contributing to progress and cooperation among the OIC Member States in various areas of development, including science and technology, transport and communications, tourism, and fostering trade among the Member States, with particular attention to the least developed countries (LDCs) among them.

The achievements realized during his tenure in the field of economic and commercial cooperation is of particular significance. First, he had assigned priority to the entry into force of the cooperation agreements and the statutes of some institutions in the field of economy and trade, pending for signing and ratification. As a result, a number of agreements and statutes which would govern the OIC’s ‘Trade Preferential System’,[12] entered into force after completion of the necessary number of ratifying countries. The OIC aims to increase the level of intra-OIC trade up to 20 percent of the OIC total. He has also initiated the OIC cotton programme.[13] to help develop economies of, in particular, the West African Member States of the OIC. A similar program in the domain of tourism was also developed which secured active participation of the OIC Member States. He gave importance to transport projects, such as the ‘Dakar-Port Sudan Railway Project’, the ‘Dushanbe - Mazari Sharif - Herat Railway link’, etc.

At the same time he made efforts to enhance the OIC activity in conflict resolution and peace-building in its Member States and in the world. In view of stopping the sectarian conflicts in Iraq he initiated and coordinated the signing of a ‘Makkah Al-Mukarramah Declaration on the Iraqi Situation’[14] by Iraqi scholars of Sunni and Shia traditions with a view to interdict and outlaw sectarian killing in Iraq, and declaring such practices as crimes, prohibited and proscribed by Islam (2006). Based on another initiative of Ihsanoğlu towards reinforcing mutual understanding between schools of thought and belief, the Islamic Fiqh Academy elaborated a practical plan to deepen the dialogue between the Islamic schools of thought (2008) which would lead to series of meetings of scholars (“ulema”) from the Member States.

As Ihsanoglu assumed the office on 1 January 2005, he immediately launched an emergency appeal to the OIC Member States to provide the victims of the destructive earthquake and the following tsunami that hit South and South Asia on 26 December 2004 with humanitarian aid. He also took necessary measures to coordinate and channel the relief efforts. In view of the huge scale of such disasters and the resulting severe humanitarian crisis situation which go well beyond the capabilities of the affected countries, Ihsanoglu focused on establishing a unit within the OIC General Secretariat to coordinate relief efforts. As a result, the Humanitarian Affairs Department (ICHAD) was created in 2008.[15] It has been formally coordinating and channeling the successful humanitarian assistance programs under the OIC umbrella, including the programs in Indonesia-Banda Aceh, Niger, Sudan-Darfur, Afghanistan, Yemen, Gaza and Pakistan. In Pakistan, Prof. Ihsanoglu inaugurated the construction of 100 housing units in a village in the Punjab province, being the first phase of a project totaling 600 housing units funded by the OIC in six provinces in the country on 11 January 2011.

Ihsanoğlu also gave importance to enhancing the role of the OIC in treatment of global issues. He initiated schemes of action with regard to promotion of understanding, tolerance, principles of human rights, democracy, and establishment of dialogue between the OIC's Member States and with other countries and communities of the world. These strategies address North-South/East-West relations with a problem-solving approach aiming to promote proper mutual understanding among the different faiths and cultures. Another main objective of Ihsanoğlu was to develop cooperation between the OIC and other international organizations; in the first place, the UN. During the period of the United Nations General Assembly Meetings in September 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon for the first time referred to the OIC as “a strategic and crucial partner of the United Nations” and said that it "plays a significant role in helping to resolve a wide range of issues facing the world community."[16] During Ihsanoğlu's tenure the OIC also initiated cooperation in the field of health with the WHO, the Global Fund and the US Government. Furthermore, for the first time OIC Ministerial Conferences were held on health (twice), women (three times), children (twice, in cooperation with UNESCO). Furthermore, he ensured the organization for the first time of NGO Forums within the OIC system.

The OIC’s expanded vision and larger sphere of influence during İhsanoğlu’s term are reflected among others, in the Russian Federation’s applying for and admission as an Observer State with the OIC (2005) and the US President’s appointing a Special Envoy to the OIC (2008).

Ihsanoğlu in 2009.

Cultural diplomacy and advocacy of dialogue

Ihsanoğlu was active in promoting intercultural and interfaith dialogue around the world in general and between the European and the Muslim worlds in particular from the 1980s onwards and increasingly from the 1990s when the question of encounters of cultures in the age of globalization came to the fore more evidently. Before assuming the post of OIC Secretary General, from 1980-2004 Ihsanoğlu was the founding Director General of the Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA, Istanbul), an intergovernmental research center and subsidiary of the OIC. In that context he actively participated in intercultural and interfaith forums, including the following:

His activities also included the following:

As OIC Secretary General since January 2005 Ihsanoğlu carries on with advocacy of dialogue. While he underscores the particular features of the Muslim world, he objectively points to the socio-economic reforms urgently needed in order to achieve progress in the course of development and pass its benefits to the man in the street. He unfailingly supports the rights of Muslim minorities, ardently calls for the respect of human rights at global level, and clearly expresses his views on these subjects in his writings and speeches.

Ihsanoğlu has been active in the treatment of global issues concerning solidarity, tolerance, development and dialogue. Combining his background in science and humanities and his experience with both the western and the eastern cultures, he coordinated projects relating to research, restoration and preservation of cultural heritage with participants from various disciplines and cultural backgrounds. These activities contributed in spreading and reinforcing awareness among peoples, especially youth, on concepts relating to shared history and heritage.

In this global context Prof. Ihsanoğlu underlines the need to move forward from “definition” to “action” in the efforts to bridge the gap of understanding between cultures, particularly where such need is felt in the context of relations between the Western and the Muslim worlds. He views this gap as one that has been built over time by preconceived attitudes, misconceptions, misgivings, prejudices and ignorance and above all, the failure to recognize its perilous implications. He stresses the need for a strong and determined collective political will to address the challenge: the first and foremost action would be to determine the priorities and to bring focus of the international community to the core of the issue, which is accepting the reality of the peaceful coexistence in diversity.

In this context Ihsanoğlu pioneered a call for a “Historic Reconciliation between Islam and Christianity”, as was the case between Judaism and Christianity during the last century. In his address at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 4 October 2005, Prof. Ihsanoğlu made a set of proposals to the European Parliamentarians to build a “Historic Reconciliation Pact”. He reiterated his call for a “Historic Reconciliation” in his statement at the first session of the Second Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations held in Istanbul in April 2009. He points to the need to:


Ihsanoğlu has books, articles and papers in different languages on science, history of science, relations between the Muslim world and the Western world, some of which are as follows:

Membership in editorial boards: Editor-in-Chief of IRCICA Newsletter, 1980–2004; Journal of Qur’anic Studies, SOAS, London, UK; Journal of Islamic Studies (Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies) Cambridge, UK; Arts and the Islamic World, London, UK; Archivum Ottomanicum, Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, Germany; Bulletin of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, Jordan; Journal for the History of the Exact and Natural Sciences in Islamic Civilization, Barcelona, Spain; Contributions to Oriental Philology, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Advisory Board member of Studies in History of Medicine and Science, Hamdard University, India.

Honorary professorships and doctorates

Awards and medals

Ihsanoğlu’s services in the fields of development, intercultural dialogue and understanding were acknowledged through the following medals and awards presented to him by Heads of State, associations and academies:

İhsanoğlu Award

“İhsanoğlu Gold Medal” award was initiated by the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science (HOPOS) for the name of Ihsanoglu; the first of which was awarded to Barcelona University faculty member Dr. Jose Bellver Martinez for his work in the field of the history of astronomy. It was presented at a ceremony in Budapest on 1 August 2009 which Ihsanoglu himself participated.


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Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Abdelouahed Belkeziz
Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
Succeeded by
Iyad bin Amin Madani
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